For 20 people a night, a room full of bunk beds at Kwesa Place in Campbell River will be their escape from the cold and rain or snow this winter.
“These beds save lives. You know they call it the ‘wet coast’ for a reason,” said Shawn Decaire, who works for Laichwiltach Family Life Society (LFLS) and runs Kwesa Place Warming Centre and Shelter.
“That wetness gets to your bones, and when it gets cold, it’ll take you down, and people die from it real easy.”
The 20 beds funded by BC Housing are a start but nowhere near the 176 beds needed after a recent homeless count found that many people are literally on the streets every night.
“It’s a 70 per cent increase, and so it’s daunting,” added Decaire.
“It shows that our housing market is in such a horrible state right now that, you know, it has nothing to do with addictions anymore. It’s just the feasibility to find housing.”
Campbell River is like many other communities grappling with the housing issue.
The Comox Valley is even considering using the current Visitors Centre in Cumberland as a shelter.
It’s still being studied along with other locations, and while the Visitor Centre is far from most services for the homeless in Courtenay, the city’s mayor Bob Wells says it would appeal to many people living in their vehicles.
“We’re still trying to find the extreme weather response sheltering that we can get sorted out,” said Wells.
“Again, our hope was to have that up and running by November 1st, but you know that date has come and gone.”
Wells said if they can find an organization to run it, the province will fund it.
“We have now funded 5,000 shelter (spaces) across 50 communities, and if Comox believes they need more shelter capacity and they can find a location for us, we’d be willing to find more ways to get more shelter space available for them,” said Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon.
The need became all that more apparent last week in Courtenay when CHEK News reported on Greg Pickard and his dog, who had found shelter in a cardboard recycling bin only to be scooped up by a recycling truck.
A passerby alerted the driver, and the two suffered only minor injuries.